Ministry's criteria is racist
I am appalled to have learned from your newspaper that the Ministry of Education has expressed objections to the recruitment of English-language teachers from countries such as India and the Philippines ("Ministry cool to teachers from India, Philippines," Jan. 21, page 1). I believe that this is a plain case of racial discrimination disguised by technical issues such as accents.
Imagine how it would make us feel if Chinese-language departments at foreign educational institutions clearly stated a "No Taiwanese" policy -- on the grounds that most Taiwan-ese teachers do not speak with a "pure" Mandarin accent. Wouldn't it make us feel dis-couraged, or even victimized by some kind of prejudice? Wouldn't it make us feel insulted, as if we were second-rate speakers of our own language?
The argument that teachers from India or the Philippines do not speak English as a native language is rather weak. It reflects a serious lack of understanding of world history and affairs.
India, under its legacy of British colonialism, in 1947 designated English its national language, ie, the standard language to be taught at schools and used on public occasions. As they often look up to the culture of their former parent country, most middle-class Indians could speak English with a traditional, upper-class English accent, the kind now rarely heard in the UK outside the small royal circle and which is often mocked by the public in England.
I believe that the attempt to exclude teachers from these countries has little to do with accents.
Rather, it has more to do with our narrow-minded calculation that these darker-skinned people (who would, presumably, be rather worse-off than most of us) don't deserve the high salaries that the ministry proposes to pay. White native-speakers of English, on the other hand, are believed to be worth more than our own Taiwanese teachers.
This is the most pathetic case of racism. On the one hand we subject ourselves to the old white-supremacist racial ranking and deem ourselves inferior, and on the other hand -- and equally, if not more, unacceptably -- we pass on the attitude in our treatment of the economically worse-off. This is certainly bad enough in any situation -- for it to happen in the field of national education is doubly unacceptable.
Besides, in English-teaching we should not be too concerned with accents. In fact a "pure native accent" is a myth. There is no such a thing as a "pure native accent" -- almost every native speaker of English has an accent, which is often an indicator of regional, class or cultural background. But so long as one speaks the language with accurate grammar and makes oneself understood, the accent really doesn't matter.
In other words, an accent can be a positive thing in all cultural exchanges, because it's a precious indicator of cultural identity in the age of Americanization. Just as there is no need for us to feel embarrassed about our "Taiwanese-Mandarin," there is no need to feel ashamed of Taiwanese-accented English.
If the ministry is determined to recruit English-language teachers from overseas, it should establish a clear and strict set of criteria, and whoever meets those criteria should be invited to join our teachers, regardless of gender, race or nationality. It is wrong to judge one's suitability on the basis of pre-determined conditions.
If we are so eager to participate in the global village (as indicated in our desperate attempts to universalize English-speaking), we should at least also learn rule number one of modern international society -- give racism a red card.
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